Putting Past Behind Us With Vote for Obama

Originally posted: May 2, 2008

Greencastle, Ind. – Today, 80 percent of Americans think our country is on the wrong track.

With a cratering economy, an endless war in Iraq and an uncomprehending president, that is understandable. Rarely has there been a moment when clarity of choice and opportunity for change has been so clear.

On Tuesday, Indiana voters have a monumental opportunity to help set our country on a new course.

I have cast an early vote for Sen. Barack Obama, and I’ll tell you why.

In the Democratic primary, the choice is between experience and judgment. For all the experience she extols, Hillary Clinton still carries the albatross of her opportunistic vote favoring the Iraq war. She explains lamely that she didn’t realize President Bush would take her blank check and cash it. Obama rightly opposed the war from the start.

Both candidates say they would get out of Iraq, but Obama would approach the necessary regional security arrangements in the Middle East by opening a dialogue with states like Syria and Iran, abandoning the stubborn silence of the Bush policies. Clinton approaches the problem with threats to obliterate Iran with “massive retaliation.” Her rhetoric is drawn from the Cold War past, revealing the “bring-them-on” mentality of Bush.

Overall, Obama represents the best chance we have to address the greatest threat facing America, the stateless terrorism of the Islamic world. As The Atlantic magazine’s Andrew Sullivan said, if you seek the simplest and most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about America in ways no words can. Obama’s mere presence in the Oval Office would help defuse anti-American passions around the world.

The electorate also is hungry for change in the way our government does business at home. Clinton has more experience in Washington, but that has not helped her to understand its problems. She solicits money from special interests and picked a major lobbyist to run her campaign. Judging by their different policies, Obama’s shorter time in Washington is more an asset than a handicap.

The most important reason that Indiana voters should support Obama on Tuesday is that he represents America’s greatest opportunity to pivot away from the past. While Clinton talks about change, Obama embodies it. He radiates a sense of possibility and has a proven ability to engage and inspire young people to public service like no candidate since John F. Kennedy. He has produced a nationwide surge of new voters, in itself an expression of the nation’s hunger for change. For the past 20 years, two families, the Bushes and Clintons, have run the country, longer than the newest voters — and many serving in Iraq — have been alive. Obama would change that.

Too late for many, Obama finally and firmly denounced the pronouncements of his preacher. Rev. Jeremiah Wright now takes his place in the pantheon of pastors who bring strange ideas from the pulpit to politics.

Bush supporter Rev. Jerry Falwell claimed the 9/11 attacks occurred because American secularism had forfeited God’s protection.

Rudy Giuliani backer Pat Robertson claimed that accepting homosexuality could result in earthquakes, tornados and a possible meteor. And John McCain’s supporter, televangelist John Hagee, said Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for a New Orleans gay rights parade. Politicians cannot be held responsible for the crazy rantings of preachers.

Voters also must remember that the Clintons represent a partnership of endless uncertainty. Bill Clinton squandered the last two years of his presidency by recklessly dallying with Monica Lewinsky, producing impeachment, and jeopardizing the election of Al Gore. Had that not happened, America would not be in Iraq today. In our choice on Tuesday, Hillary and Bill Clinton clearly represent the past, a page turned backward, and Barack Obama represents the future.

While endorsing Obama, a former Clinton administration official put it this way: “I don’t think I’m ready for the circus to come back to town.”

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